Yesterday we hosted a very useful forum for representatives of the various Trade Associations (TAs) with which the Stationers' Company is associated, followed by a lunch in the Court Room.
In a discussion on social media, Liveryman Michael Gardner, who is CEO of the BOSS Federation, the TA for the Office Products sector, said that almost 70% of people looking for 'stationery' on the web, key the word 'stationary' into Google, making it hard for the industry to point them in the right direction!
This got me thinking about this well-known schoolboy spelling error and the irony behind the ancient name of the Stationers' Company.
Back in the fourteenth century, most medieval craftsmen were itinerant and plied their trades with wheelbarrows, knocking on doors and asking for work. The manuscript writers, illuminators and bookbinders were somehow different: they chose to sell their services from fixed positions or 'stations', around the entrances to cathedrals and universities; and thereby acquired the nickname of 'stationers', because they were stationary. So when they founded their guild in 1403, it was natural to give it the name 'Stationers' and for its product to be called 'stationery'.
Of course 600 years later, stationery now has a much narrower meaning and many find the Company's name quite confusing, as is evidenced by the fact that we get quite a few calls in the Office along the lines of "can I order 1,000 A4 pads please?"!!
But it's a brave organisation that changes its name after 600 years and we are proud to be Stationers. We are also proud that we have retained a very strong connection with our industries: embracing the introduction of printing less than 100 years after the Guild was first founded and today welcoming the modern digital media industry.
We may be 'Stationers' but we are certainly not 'stationary'!!